George Washington Cable

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What is the climax of George Washington Cable's "Tite Poulette" and why is it significant?

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The climax in "Tite Poulette" extends from the moment Kristian Koppig is stabbed to the moment Madame John unobtrusively observes Kristian declaring his love for Tite Poulette. The climax is the highest point of the story, and in this instance, the climax is significant because it brilliantly highlights the theme of discriminatory caste systems in 19th century New Orleans. In focusing on Kristian, Madame John, and Tite Poulette's emotional reactions, Cable portrays for us the cruelty of unjust laws that circumscribed Southern living.

An important scene in the climax rests upon Kristian's delirious proclamation to Madame John that he cannot marry Tite Poulette because she is "jet black." In this instance, Kristian's words unwittingly expose his heart: he is in love with the daughter of a quadroon woman. However, the law forbids such a miscegenistic alliance. How then will the conflict resolve itself? During his convalescence, Madame John regales Kristian with an account of her nursing a Spanish couple through a bout of yellow fever. After hearing that the couple had succumbed to the fever, Kristian hopefully asks if an infant had been left behind. Here, Cable highlights how decent men are reduced to grasping at straws in order to justify forbidden romantic attachments.

Madame John's answer leads to an anguished reaction from Kristian. Herself affected beyond endurance, Madame John sends Tite Poulette to Kristian's bedside, itself another significant action. Then, unobserved, she watches the emotional exchange between Kristian and her daughter. The conflict is resolved when Madame John produces supposedly legal papers declaring Tite Poulette's "white" heritage, which clears the way for the two lovers to marry. Love wins in the end: "I have struggled hard, even to this hour, against Love, but I yield me now; I yield; I am his unconditioned prisoner forever. God forbid that I ask aught but that you will be my wife."

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